There are many factors that figure into the calculation of attention in a family. All other things being equal (which is probably a rare occasion), in families with more than one child, birth order plays a big role. When children are not separated by many years, sibling rivalry sets up a dynamic among the children and parents. Usually the ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’ to coin a phrase. This is certainly the case when one child has physical or mental problems, or both.
I wonder if there is a certain receptive period of time in a child’s life, when positive attention must be paid and after this window in time has passed without adequate attention paid, thirst for approval is rarely quenched. I touched on this subject in my post, Questions for Sibs. Could it be that some plasticity in the brain has been lost, as in the diminished ability to easily learn new languages later in life?
My older brother, Mike, needed all the attention of my parents (and more). He is autistic and very low functioning. As a child I tried to help and was always appreciated. I was very lucky in this regard, as I know that many parents are either overwhelmed, too exhausted or simply do not recognize the needs of siblings, as long as they can take care of themselves. Having a child who can take care of him or herself must be a huge relief for the parents.
Although I was and am appreciated by my parents for my role in my family when I was growing up, I am even more pleased about their positive reaction to my efforts to try understanding my brother through my photography.
In the guest book for my photography exhibition about Mike (Brotherly Love), many people made wonderful comments. The most significant ones to me were from my parents.